Saturday, January 27, 2007

Eye Contact

Last Wednesday I was at an all-day textbook adoption meeting listening to the publishers promote their wares. Interesting, tiring and enlightening all at once. There was one lady who talked very fast. I wouldn't have noticed it (maybe) if she hadn't been in a group of other speakers to compare to. But, sheesh, I found myself shutting down soon because I didn't have enough time to process her words before she moved on without a break. Then that got me to thinking about my teaching. I think I'm guilty of talking at that speed at times, and now I can see the effect it has on listeners. SLOW DOWN for processing purposes.

Another gentleman turned me off almost immediately. He was a professor and very engaging but seemed to be full of himself and at one point rudely shushed his co-speaker so that he could continue. Ick. Then I couldn't look at him for the rest of the time he was speaking. I listened to him, but I felt uncomfortable looking at him because of my distaste for his actions.

Other times at other talks I was so tired from sitting all day that I seemed to need to stare down at one inanimate object while listening to the speakers. That way I didn't have more stimuli than I could handle in the afternoon.

Of course, then this made me start thinking about my students and their eye contact with me in class. Sometimes I think they're not listening to me because they're staring off as I'm speaking, but then if I ask them about what I was just saying, they can repeat the information accurately.

The book(s) I loved were the ones with fascinating math history vignettes. There was love and duels and theft and all sorts of "non dry" tidbits for the kids (and me). I'll have to bring more of those into my lessons.

8 comments:

  1. I've been reading The Ten Things All Future Mathematicians and Scientists Must Know (But Are Rarely Taught). It's full of real-life example and sample problems: Keeping an open mind, yet having healthy skepticism. Ethical choices. How data isn't emotional, but statistics can be bent to suit any situation.

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  2. Thanks, Heidi. I looked the "Ten Things..." book up on Amazon, and it is intriguing. I love books that make you think in new and different ways. It's now on my wish list, and I just may be FORCED to put in an order soon :).

    Ms. Cookie

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  3. jfmeena1:26 PM

    I think it is important for teachers to think about whether or not they would be enjoying the way they're teaching like you do. Everyone remembers the classes that they would be falling asleep in when they were in school. Those who wanted to become teachers perhaps thought to themselves that they would always make their class enjoyable for their students. When given curriculum by your school district however, I could see how it could become hard to make classes exciting on a daily basis. Do you find that relating your lesson to real life experiences helps students become more involved in the classroom? Often times students space out or become unfocused when they are just sitting in their seats being lectured to. Perhaps doing group activities where the students are interacting with their peers or activities where students are moving around the classroom will keep them engaged for a longer period of time.

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  4. kweigie7:04 PM

    First of all, thank you for blogging as a math teacher. It is refreshing to see someone who is not only good at math, but is also good at writing and enjoys to write.

    I am currently in college as a "pre-service teacher," as they like to call us. I also had never thought about eye contact in the classroom in quite that way. I think that during presentations in the past, I have taken a lack of eye contact to mean that I was doing a poor job. While that still may be the case, I would like to think that it is more due to the sensory overload that is high school. I guess it's kind of hard to tell without constantly pestering your students about what you just said.

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  5. kweigie,

    Good luck in your future math teaching. I'm also thinking that this eye contact thing works both ways. I'm guilty of just scanning the room sometimes (instead of looking at individual kids) while I'm explaining something because I'm processing a lot in my head ... and I don't need more information to creep in and overload. I have to then remind myself to make eye contact.

    Ms. Cookie

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  6. Anonymous1:56 PM

    I think the eye contact issue is a very interesting one. As someone preparing to make the transition from student to teacher, I can see this issue from both sides. As a student, I often find myself subconsciously thinking of professors almost as inanimate beings who are completely unaware of what I look like during their class. It's startling when getting up in front of a group of people, whether it be to teach or something else, and realizing that teachers can see much more from the front of the classroom than you would think, and that maybe it would be worth some effort to look like you are paying attention. I think that teachers, on the other hand, need to remember, like you said, that just because a student looks like they're off in a distant galaxy, they could be paying just as much attention as the student sitting on the front edge of her seat, attentive to every word the teacher is saying. Also, keeping in mind the many many different things that take a higher priority than school in a high schooler's brain can ease the pressure of feeling like you have to catch every student's attention during every minute of the class.

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  7. Anonymous8:29 PM

    It's good to hear that there are teachers out there who reflect back on experience to incorporate it into their teaching styles. You took the perspective of a student at the lectures that you attended and tried to use your own frustrations with other people to help you understand your teaching to a higher degree.
    C.T.

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